Xiao unzipped his backpack, took out a pair of blank sneakers and some painting brushes. His fellow Zhou was setting up storage racks and put up a poster saying “Jinxuan Graffiti” beside them. A noodle seller was saying goodbye to them. He had just finished picking up his movable noodle shop to make room for these two young men’s hand-painted shoes stand.
The simple roadside stand was made up of an table, four stools and storage racks. Zhou said he had made the storage racks by himself using extra materials in the supermarket where he worked. After graduating from a local art and design college, Zhou has been a poster-designer in Lotus Supercenter in Shantou for two years.
Zhou and Xiao have sold hand-painted shoes near Jinsha Park every Sunday afternoon for 4 months. They called the shoes “DIY (DO IT YOURSELVES)”works which are cloth shoes with hand-painted images on the sneakers. The interest the shoes attract is evidence of a youth culture that has its roots in big urban centers.
“Hand-painted shoes started to be sold in Shantou later than other big cities in Guangdong like Guangzhou and Zhuhai. Our products attract many pedestrians, especially young people who stop and look for what is new. But few will buy the shoes. The notion of the local people is different from other cities,” XiaoLiangjin, 23, said.
The shoes sell for about 60 RMB, considerably more than the 40 yuan that sneakers can go for in many shops.
Xiao likes to draw delicate girl portraits or abstract paintings, while Zhou likes to draw pop style images and characters. Also they can draw what customers request. Xiao said they had been trying to set up their own business by using their painting and designing abilities. Zhou indicated he did not care how much they earned but just enjoyed the work.
Xiao graduated 5 years ago from a Wuhan (an inland city in Hubei Province) art and design school. Now he is employed by a quite big design company in Tuopu Shantou as a designer. He has to work for 6 days a week.
“When we step into the company on weekdays, we must devote ourselves in the work forgetting any other things. We sell ourselves to the bosses,”he said.
Zhou followed, “Only on this afternoon of every Sunday can we do what we enjoy doing. So we don’t care how much money we make, we do it for art and an attitude of life.”
Most of the time, Zhou and Xiao sat and kept eyes down working on the shoes-painting in hands, quiet without talking to each other, even if there were people around.
They planed to sell shoes and other painting products on “Taobao”, a customer to customer trading website. If their business is fully funded, they will open the first “Box Shop” in Shantou which provides boxes for people to have their own goods showed in and sold. Box shops are popular in some big cities in China after first being introduced from Hong Kong last year.